SEATTLE – Can the University of Arizona men’s basketball team get its confidence back?
With seven consecutive wins – a stretch that put them back into the NCAA Tournament discussion – the Wildcats had a bravado that they hadn’t seen since early last season.
But then came a loss Sunday at Arizona State. Throw on another loss against Washington State on Thursday in which UA (18-10, 8-7) was outscored 53-26 to end the game.
The Cats seemed almost disinterested as the Cougars picked them apart.
“We were real disappointed,” UA interim coach Russ Pennell said. “It wasn’t a good performance and we all know it.”
Arizona now finds itself looking at one of the toughest situations of this season: facing Pac-10 leader Washington on the road Saturday.
Arizona is 2-8 this season in non-neutral site road games, and Washington controls its destiny in the league with a 12-4 mark.
Can Arizona find the same magic it had last month when it outscored Washington 106-97?
UW hopes not, but Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said, “When they are on top of their game – I’m not just throwing this out there – they are good enough to beat anyone in the country.”
All one has to do is look at the last game, UW’s Jon Brockman said.
“Look at every single area and they spanked us,” Brockman said, reflecting on the last meeting.
He then rattled off the list: rebounding; second shots; shooting; attacking the glass, free throws and all-around play.
“We’ve got to expect them to come in and do the exact same thing,” Brockman said. “They were playing with their backs against the wall when we played down there and they are playing the same way now.”
UA’s recent losses have it in this situation. Just days after national media such as Yahoo.com, ESPN.com and USA TODAY did stories on UA’s run, the Wildcats are trying to figure out how to stay in the top half of the league.
Entering Saturday’s game, UA is in fifth place, with USC and Oregon State just a game behind.
So how does UA get ready for the Huskies? Apparently by not practicing. It’s the first time the team hasn’t practiced in between games all season.
“That was the plan,” Pennell said of preparing for Saturday’s game.
So, UA went through a “skull session” – watching game tapes of what went wrong Thursday and what needs to be fixed.
Pennell called it “therapeutic.”
“You get tired and worn out,” he said of the long season. “You have to refocus the mental more than anything else . . . get your thoughts in line and make sure everyone is (going) in the right direction.
“It’s nothing earth-shattering. We make sure everything is all right and you just keep plugging away, and that, yes, we’re still the same guys we were in the seven-game streak.”
But first, UA must “go back to the basics,” Pennell said. The Cats must slide their feet on defense, throw crisper passes and have more attention to detail.
“You go on a streak because you’re doing things correct,” Pennell said. “They know. They’re smart guys. Now they need to do it.”
Arizona (18-10, 8-7) at No. 21 Washington (21-7, 12-4)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM
Line: Washington by 8
THE PRESS, 2C
> Washington-Arizona breakdown
> UA notebook
> UA women host Washington in last home game of year